Lesson: The Acoustic Artistry of The Beatles' George Harrison

by Dale Turner
Posted Feb 11, 2014 at 2:30am

Of the four Beatles, George Harrison brought to the group an assortment of electric and acoustic guitar approaches, flavors influenced by everyone from Chet Atkins and Carl Perkins to the Byrds and Bob Dylan.

Harrison’s pioneering use of the Rickenbacker 360/12 electric 12-string on songs like “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Ticket to Ride” added another dimension to the sound of Beatles music and left an imprint on Sixties-era rock: soon after, the Byrds, Beach Boys and Rolling Stones began to use 12-string guitars.

In the mid Sixties, influenced by Indian culture and Hinduism, Harrison introduced the sitar and exotic scales into the Beatles’ catalog on songs like “Norwegian Wood” and “Within You Without You.” In essence, he played a huge role in stylizing the Beatles’ music.

But Harrison also contributed a wealth of guitar-centric hits to the band’s repertoire, many of which center around an acoustic guitar (his Gibson J-200). In this lesson, we’ll look at musical examples inspired by Harrison-penned Beatles classics like “Here Comes the Sun,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Something.”

holenotes1010_1.jpg

“While My Guitar Gently Weeps” revolves around strummed versions of the chords in FIGURE 1. Much of this song’s emotional power stems from its mostly chromatic (notes one half step apart, the distance of one fret) descending A–G–Fs–F bass line. The song also features a famous, inspired solo by Eric Clapton.

holenotes1010_2.jpg

Chromatic movement is a characteristic common to many of Harrison’s popular Beatles tracks, among them, “Something,” which informs FIGURE 2.

While the original Abbey Road version is played on electric guitars (in the key of C), the original demo (key of A) on The Beatles: Anthology 3 is a solo performance by Harrison, who plays a hollowbody electric, warranting its relevance here. Use the picking pattern in bar 1 for the A, Amaj7 and A7 chords, and note the descending chromatic line on the G string. Similar chromaticism is also encountered in a later Fsm–Fsm(maj7)–Fsm7 change.

holenotes1010_3.jpg

holenotes1010_4.jpg

Hands down, the most popular acoustic guitar “picking” riff in the Beatles oeuvre is the passage that opens Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun,” which gets its sparkling quality from the fact that it is capoed at the seventh fret.

FIGURE 3 is a passage inspired by the song’s main riff, containing mostly D, A7 and G chords (use alternate picking throughout, beginning with a downstroke). FIGURE 4 features a variation on the chords used in the song’s bridge.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


Add a Comment
0 Comments

Similar Guitar News

Guide to the Recording Equipment and Instruments Featured on The Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' (6/2/2014)
The studio experimentation that had begun with Revolver advanced to the next level on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. In many ways, 1966 had been a watershed for the Beatles. They had broken from the two-albums-per-year formula that had ...
Dear Guitar Hero: Donovan Recalls Working with The Beatles, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page — and Welcoming Jimi Hendrix to England (5/21/2014)
He’s a famous Sixties folk-pop troubadour who worked with Jimmy Page and played with the Beatles. But what Guitar World readers really want to know is… What do you call your unique picking technique, and which artists inspired it? — Dingy Bell I...
George Harrison's Rickenbacker 425 Guitar Sells for $675,000 at Auction (5/19/2014)
A black-and-white 1962 Rickenbacker 425 electric guitar that George Harrison played on British television before the Beatles' U.S. "invasion" fetched $657,000 at auction Saturday in New York City, topping pre-sale estimates, Julien's Auctions sa...
Song Facts: The Beatles — "Let It Be" (Both Versions) (5/8/2014)
Attentive Beatles fans who purchased Let It Be when it came out in May 1970 noticed something very different about the album version of the title track: The guitar solo was markedly changed from what they'd heard on the "Let It Be" single releas...
Brad Paisley talks Telecasters, recording, George Harrison and playing the UK (3/9/2014)
Read more about Brad Paisley talks Telecasters, recording, George Harrison and playing the UK at MusicRadar.com
Tribute to The Beatles: Virtuoso Al Di Meola Puts His Signature Style on 14 Fab Tunes (2/18/2014)
Whether he’s racing with devils on Spanish highways or chasing aliens in Arabian deserts, Al Di Meola has enjoyed a career highlighted by new musical adventures in exotic locales. His latest call of duty? Recording a tribute to one of his favor...
Album Review: The Beatles — 'The U.S. Albums' (2/18/2014)
Unless you’ve been under a rock, missed the Grammys and close your eyes while you’re at the grocery store checkout, you’ve probably noticed it’s the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival in the U.S. To mark the occasion, there’s a new box s...
The Fab 50: The Beatles' 50 Greatest Guitar Moments (2/7/2014)
On the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' arrival in the United States (and legendary February 1964 appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show), Guitar World celebrates the 50 best guitar moments from the band's hit-making history. The Beatles were such t...
The Beatles US Albums: a disc-by-disc guide (2/6/2014)
Read more about The Beatles US Albums: a disc-by-disc guide at MusicRadar.com Between January of 1964 and February of 1970, Cap
David Crosby on the impact of The Beatles: "They changed my life" (2/4/2014)
Read more about David Crosby on the impact of The Beatles: "They changed my life" at MusicRadar.com THE BEATLES IN THE USA: "A friend of mine brought home the record Meet The Beatles. We were living in Chicago at the time, over a grocery store, ...
The Beatles in the USA (2/1/2014)
Read more about The Beatles in the USA at MusicRadar.com 50 years ago this week, The Beatles made their debut performance on the Ed Sullivan Show - and the world never sounded the same again. To celebrate half a century since Liverpool's likelie...
From Bo Diddley to The Beatles to U2, Gretsch Guitars Have Been a Key Part of Rock and Roll’s Explosion (12/30/2013)
From the GW Archive: This story originally appeared in the September 2009 issue of Guitar World. From Bo Diddley to the Beatles to U2, Gretsch Guitars have been a key part of rock and roll’s big explosion. Guitar World celebrates more than 125 y...
The Making of The Beatles’ U.S. Albums (12/20/2013)
As the Beatles’ camp gets ready to roll out The U.S. Albums box set next month, we thought it was a good time to explore why this new release even exists. Didn’t Apple Corps reissue remastered versions of the group’s catalog just a few years ag...
The Beatles' 13 US Albums to Be Released as Box Set in January (12/12/2013)
Even though the ink is still drying on the Beatles' latest BBC collection, On Air — Live at the BBC Volume 2, there is more Beatles product on the horizon. A new box set, which will be released in early 2014, will reissue the band's 13 American ...
Song Facts: The Beatles — "Helter Skelter" (11/25/2013)
Paul McCartney was generally known for writing "silly love songs" like "Yesterday" or cheeky whimsy like "When I'm Sixty-Four," but occasionally he could rock every bit as hard as John Lennon. While The Beatles recorded numerous violent rockers...